M. S. Statistics

Program Guidelines

The Master of Science degree in statistics at Montana State University gives students a solid background in the theory of statistics and hands-on practice in the application of statistics to real problems. Students in this program prepare either for further graduate work or for academic, industrial, business, or government employment. Upon entrance, each student meets with the department's Graduate Program Committee to discuss career objectives and first year coursework. During the second semester in the program each student forms a Graduate Committee and, with that committee, builds an outline of the courses to be taken.

The prerequisites for the master's degree program in statistics consist of the following semester courses or their equivalent: Multivariable Calculus (M 274), Linear Algebra (M 333 or M 441), Probability (STAT 421), and Mathematical Statistics (STAT 422). Students who have not completed these courses may still enter the master's program. It is suggested that these courses then be taken after enrolling which will require three years to complete the MS program.

Either Plan A (thesis and 20 credits of coursework) or Plan B (30 credits of coursework) can be chosen. In either case, all courses on a graduate program must be numbered 400 or higher, and STAT courses must be numbered 431 or higher. The specific program of study depends on the student's previous training and experience. Regardless of the plan chosen, (i) at least half of the required non-thesis credits must be STAT courses (Plan A only), (ii) at least two-thirds of the required non-thesis credits must be numbered 500 or higher, and (iii) the following 14 semester core course credits are required:

Statistics M.S. Required Courses (14 semester credits)

  • STAT 501-502 Intermediate Math Stat - 6 credits (prerequisite: STAT 422)
  • STAT 505-506 Linear Stat Models - 6 credits (prerequisites: M 333 or STAT 441, STAT 422, & STAT 411 or STAT 511)
  • STAT 510 Statistical Consulting - 1 credit, twice for a total of 2 credits

Additional Requirements

  1. The M.S. degree requires completion of either a thesis or a writing project.
    • Thesis (Plan A): The Plan A thesis requires at least 10 thesis credits (STAT 590) in addition to the required 20 credits of course work. The student must give an oral defense of his/her thesis.
    • Writing Project (Plan B): The Plan B writing project typically requires 1 or 2 credits of STAT 575. With permission from the student's committee, additional credits of STAT 575 (no more than 4 total) may be earned. The student must give a seminar on the writing project before graduating.
  2. For either Plan A or Plan B, the student must pass an M.S. comprehensive examination.

M.S. Statistics Comprehensive Exam

The M.S. comprehensive exam for statistics is given in late August during the week before fall semester classes begin, with specific dates determined by the department. The exam consists of two components: a timed component covering material from the four core classes STAT 501, 502, 505, and 506, and a 24-hour take-home component involving data analysis. The exam is graded as one of the following: Ph.D. pass, M.S. pass, or fail. Examinees will be informed of the results within three working days of taking the exam.  A second attempt at passing the M.S. comprehensive exam is allowed if the first attempt did not result in a pass. At the discretion of the student's committee, an oral exam over the M.S. coursework may be required.

More Information

For more information, refer to The Department of Mathematics Graduate Handbook.

Old Exams

Copies of old exams are available only to people on math department computers.


Updated: 03/27/2015